If Derek Falvey recommends beefing up the Twins’ pitching rotation by signing free-agent righthander Yu Darvish, team owner Jim Pohlad said Saturday he will give the OK.
But he believes Falvey, Twins chief baseball officer, will only make the call if Darvish’s price fits into the long-term budget.
“I’ve been a Yu Darvish person from the beginning,” Pohlad said at TwinsFest. “But it’s got to make sense. We know where we are willing to be, but that doesn’t mean that’s where Yu is.”
The Twins made signing Darvish an objective at the start of free agency, and the 31-year-old veteran confirmed on Twitter earlier this month that the Twins are one of the teams he’s interested in, along with the Rangers, Astros, Cubs, Yankees and one unnamed team. That encouraged the Twins, but like nearly every other premier free agent, Darvish has not appeared close to reaching a decision.
“There is mutual interest in seeing if something makes sense for both parties,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “We are not there yet today, but that could accelerate in the near future.”
Some reports have speculated that it could take an average salary of at least $25 million to land Darvish, surpassing Joe Mauer’s $23 million-a-year payday as the highest in Twins history. But the Twins’ payroll, roughly $98 million in 2017 and at least $10 million more this season, might be more flexible than it appears.
Mauer’s contract expires at the end of the season, Brian Dozier, who earns $9 million this year, reaches free agency next fall, and Ervin Santana’s $13.5 million option for 2019 only vests if he pitches at least 200 innings this year. The Twins, as of now, have only about $38 million committed for 2019, making a nine-figure contract — which would be the first given to a free agent in franchise history — more plausible than in years past.
Other teams have apparently noticed. ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olneytweeted Friday that “there are folks with other teams who believe the Twins have a real shot to sign Yu Darvish. They’ve got a ton of payroll flexibility, they have a rotation need, and they’re well-positioned to compete in a weakened AL Central in the next few years.”
The Twins have not yet made an offer, Pohlad seemed to confirm Saturday, since he said Falvey has not come to him to authorize it. But he’s already a Darvish fan.
“Who wouldn’t be?” Pohlad said. “He’s a cool guy.”
Three hitters of interest
The Twins are also monitoring the market for another hitter, mostly to augment their bench. They remain interested in Mike Napoli, a free agent who hit 29 home runs for Texas last season, but according to a source with knowledge of their discussions, they also have been considering a pair of Yankees free agents: Todd Frazier and Matt Holliday.
Holliday, 38, served as New York’s designated hitter in 90 games last season, batting .231 with 19 home runs. Frazier, who turns 32 next month, is a third baseman who hit 27 homers last year.
Kirilloff ready to play again
Alex Kirilloff posed for a photo Saturday with a handful of his fellow Twins’ first-round picks, among them Byron Buxton, Mauer and Royce Lewis. He couldn’t help but be a little jealous of their 2017 success.
But Kirilloff, who missed the entire year after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in March, intends to use his season on the sidelines as motivation.
“You can look at it as a lost year and feel sorry for yourself, or you can take it as a challenge and try to get better from it,” said the 20-year-old outfielder, chosen with the 15th overall pick in 2016.